By the end of the spring session in April, we hope to publish a booklet of ITWOW poetry/prose/fiction/words! This is an new, exciting venture for us, and we need your wonderful words!
Feel free to submit poems, essays, short fiction pieces (less than 1000 words), etc. You may submit as many as you like. However, if you submit more than one piece, there is no guarantee everything you submitted will be included.
The deadline for submission is April 19 (subject to change).
So, write your heart out and email your best work to itwow.sfv [at] gmail [dot] com!
I have a dream we’re in Barcelona. You’re yelling in the back of a cab with your hair all dolled up like John Lennon, your heart pounding so hard like the whole rest of the universe has capitulated to atrophy. You’re slurring your words and the second syllable of “Barcelona” tumbles past your lips in a lisp. Your mistakes fill my head up with cold honey-flavored fog that spills out against the bright blue and yellow of the taxi cab skin, like an Easter egg shell, the husk of some monstrous beetle caught in a particular angle of light and barreling rainbow down the city street.
In my dream you scream Dostoevsky at swirling purple winds and spit fire into my throat like you did on the day we met.
“YOU HAVE TO READ KAUFMANN,” you scream against the tide swimming through our heads, the sand colored domes in the streets, the stones under our feet. “YOU HAVE TO READ KANT, AND KAFKA, AND PIAGET, AND SCHLEGEL, AND REINHOLD.”
You know so much more than me and its overwhelming; it always was. I press my hands against green and gold glass windows and hotels that look whittled away from Grand Canyon earth. My fist fit exactly into the carved out faces of churches and hospital wings and I imagine them smashing against your pink jaw, your white teeth glowing in the afternoon.
“You have so much to know,” you cry a little softer, running hands over rosebuds in public gardens. In my dream, you morph into the part of me that wants to touch everything, you push your fingertips against green and red glass windows as if trying to force yourself inside. You smash your palms into the hearts of public artworks and try to make me stop and stare. “I need to teach you things. There are so many things you could know and not enough time to learn them,” You yell like a lion tamer, a magistrate, a wide-eyed magician, like you have a whip in your hand, “I’m going to teach you things.”
And that’s what I used to believe, too.
I have a dream we’re in my grandmother’s house, in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Frankfurt, Willow County, White Elk Country. We’re in a Tennessee Williams nightmare, a stereotype filled with saber-toothed squirrels and forth cousins with names like LillaBelle and MaeAnn Vanderbilt.
I see you by the light of the fireside eating Grandma’s Famous Delicacies, baked turtle, gumbo with tail of crocodile, mourning dove tarts with chipmunk’s collar-bone whipped cream, whatever. In the back of my mind I know you when I stopped knowing you. I know your fingernails are clean, your eyes bright green and shining watching the willow trees outside thinking that there is nothing more beautiful in all the world. I know your passport’s empty, I know you’re satisfied with California State School Educated, Back Country Bred, raised to appreciate the few things you can take and hold on to.
You munch on chocolate chip and roasted woodland critter, and its all you ever wanted, you bite down with cold white teeth on blackened sea turtle and caramelized onions.
I have a dream like a 22nd Century novel. I have a dream like a space-time mishap, and obnoxious concept painting, a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream. I have a dream I’m falling asleep with your lips whispering up against my ear, while I dream I’m falling asleep with you whispering against my ear, dreaming of falling asleep while you whisper in my ear.
“I love you a whole lot.” Well, that’s nice of you, finally.
“I want to be with you forever and ever.” That’s nice. I think wearily, that’s wonderful. “I want kids with your eyes and my relentless immaturity. I want a kitchen with black and red applique. I want a swimming pool and no sunshine outside.” Okay.
“You just need to stop thinking of me like your hero. I’m a human being.” You sound like a beginner’s screenplay.
“I’m not your hero. All your heroes are full of shit. John Lennon and Yoko Ono, they’re full of shit too.”
“What? No they’re not.”
“Bagism was symbolic. If everyone wore bags over their heads, symbolically, there wouldn’t be any racism. People wouldn’t judge each other. I don’t expect you to understand.”
“If everyone wore bags over their heads, people would continuously run into picture windows.”
In my dream within a dream, within a dream within a dream, I star clawing myself awake.
“You can suspend judgments and preconceptions when you eliminate the visual aspect of interactions,” I say, my voice swimming like hot bitter citron, “if everyone practiced Bagism we could make negotiations,” I sound like a medical instruction pamphlet, a historical textbook, like you and your importance, “WE COULD MAKE HEADWAY IN CREATING A PEACEFUL SOCIETY, A REAL, INTEGRATED, ETHICAL COMMUNITY.”
The dreams peel away like tangerine skins, the sharp juice inside stinging my earlobes and the tips of my elbows.
“Bagism doesn’t accomplish anything. The only way to get anything done is to face each other honestly, exactly the way we are.”
In my dream within a dream, I shut my eyes and wake up, and wake up, and wake up.
* * *
You never believed in heroes. You never believed in angels, either, or gods. Or distant cousins, animals with human eyes and mouths, symbolism, or world peace. I have a dream about the day you stopped believing in me. We’re in a hotel room, the walls papered pink and silver and filled with noise. We’re in a Barcelona that only exists in television sets, gray and black and white, high definition fog and sunshine closing in on church spires instead of taxicabs and rain. You roar with the same kind of insolence only beasts have, the guttural groans of frustrated dragons and belittled creatures of unimaginable power. The things you never believed in–Graduate Education, South American Civil Rights, mixing dark powdered cocoa with butter and coffee beans, little gods and demonic statuettes–they dance on the walls and split patterns apart with their pirouetting and clumsy two-steps.
You twitch and holler, “THIS ISN’T WORKING OUT,” little demons dancing around your neck.
“I know; speak softly.” In my dream I’m more rational than I was that day. You’re louder and I’m calmer. I’m a bourgeois doll made up of shiny and soft. In my dream the toes of your shoes pull back into devilish grins. In real life we’re both quiet. Its less easy to hate you when everything is quiet.
Your eyes darken into coffee grinds and suddenly its exactly the way it happened in real life.
“I just wanted to learn things from you?” I plead, my sentences pulling back into question marks. “I just wanted us to teach each other things? Isn’t that the most pure kind of love you’ve ever heard of? I just wanted our love to be an example? An inspiration? More famous than gods or holy wars or vaccinations? More famous than Yoko or John or any 1970′s casualty with a bag over their head?”
In my dream the wallpaper snaps in half and you walk out the door the same way. You break gravity and walk away from me with your shoes against windowpanes. You walk all over and over church spires and don’t listen to a word I say.
I have a dream on a London rooftop. I watch the clouds and you watch red sparkling tourist buses, wailing like widowed ladybugs along the road. Its not Barcelona, and well, there’s nothing we can do about that.
“Its beautiful here, isn’t it?” For once you’re too quiet and I have strain my ears to listen to you.
Yeah, I think, you want grey clouds and thoughts the color they’re supposed to be.
“I don’t really think so.”
You want Cambridge and chocolate cookies and sermons on manifest destiny.
I pull my heartstrings back into a big grinning question, “What about Dostoevsky? And Piaget? And Kant?”
“Well, what about Yoko? They’re all just thinks to make yourself seem more interesting.”
“Right. I really don’t think so.”
If you listened to the color of your dreams you’d find me there, green yellow and blue. When I listen to my dreams I find you there with your palms pressed into passenger door handles on city cabs, seeing me off. Your fingernails crunch into the yellow metal of the cab’s great hissing beetle body, and your eyes mold back into black coffee. On my way away from you my fists fit into Grand Canyon earth and steal orange blossoms from public gardens. I smell yellow and orange and bright burning red and gather everything beautiful in my own little taxi cabin.
I walked away!
Just like so many nights before. Walked away, but yearned to kiss her. The tension palpable in the air, but yet no kiss.
We made small talk.
“Wow. Its really ACTUALLY cold tonight.”
“Yeah it rarely gets this cold down here.”
Although the rarely cool weather in So. Cal. is something to get exited over, it was nothing like her piercing, golden eyes.
“Well, Good Night…”
“Good Night,” the words left dangling, a proposition in the unusually cool air. With obvious reluctance, we turned our separate ways. I folded my self into my little honda. I watched her walk away in my rearview mirror, and turned the key in the ignition. As I slowly pulled away from the curb, I flipped on the radio. Death Cab For Cutie, an album I borrowed from her, blared.
…Ivory lines lead, Oo wha-ho, oo wha-ho….
I smack the back button, to linger in the emo moment.
…There’s a tear in the fabric your favorite dress, and I’m sneaking glances…
What if this is the last chance I get to kiss her?
…Looking for the patterns in static, they start to make sense the longer I’m at it…
My dramatic side takes over and circles the block. I see her passing her neighbors, I want to call out to her, but decide otherwise. I return to my original spot, feeling like a complete and total idiot.
I text her:
“I feel silly…I just circled back around.. I felt like this was like this was last
chance to kiss u”
“Where are you”
“Same place lol”
“On my way”
I sat in my seat for a few seconds, feeling my pulse rise, and my hands get clammy. This would feel like fear if it didn’t feel so good. I open the door but reached back to put our anthem on repeat. I make my way around the back the of the car, wondering what’s taking her so long. I open the passenger side door, and try to sit casually. Ha, what a joke, “casually.” I’m so nervous, I can hear my pulse now. I let my mind drift to the lyrics for a minute…
…Ivory lines lead Oo wha-ho, oo wha-ho…
How many times have I sung that refrain with her ivory lines in mind? A stir in my vision, in the peripherals, brings me back to the present. As she makes her way to me, I look up.
“I feel silly. Am I silly?”
“Why is this so hard? Why is it so hard to cross the barrier of friendship?”
“I don’t know.”
…Your heart is a river that flows from your chest. Through every organ Your brain is the dam. And i am the fish who can’t reach the core…
I mumble some other words about embarrassment and the silliness of the situation.
…Oh, instincts are misleading. You shouldn’t think what you’re feeling. They don’t tell you what you know you should want…
She leans forward, removing herself from the luxurious recline of my car. Fearing that she has given up on me, I catch her arm, and say
“Ok, Come here.” This is it. I’m really going to do it. I pull her close to me, our breasts pushing up against each other. I don’t expect, however, the ferocity of my need. I kiss her so hard, so hungrily. realizing that she isn’t going anywhere, and lighten up, run my hand behind her neck, into her hair, feeling the sweet, warm pressure of her lips against mine. Surprised by her playful lip nibble, I pull away, and breathlessly sigh into her mouth,
“…your skin is just as soft as I imagined it…”
A few more moments of the warm, soft kiss before we break away from each other.
I stagger to keep my balance in the heat and pounding heart beats. I crack some kind of stupid joke about holding on to my car to keep from falling over. Out of the night I hear her say,
“Well…that’s outta the way.”
I dumbly say,
“I’ll really leave this time, I promise.” Logical thoughts fight the current of hormones streaming to my brain. This time as I pull away from the curb I see fireworks. Although I know they are from Disneyland, I think, “How Moulin Rouge of me to see fireworks after that kiss.”
I make my way home, (a trip I have made easily before), and I become utterly and completely lost in Downtown Los Angeles.
–Mari A. Lee, MFT
Once upon a time a beautiful little girl was born. She was precious, sweet, joyful, and full of wonder. She loved nature, laughter, windy days and cute kittens; her horse was one of her best friends in life. This lovely little girl could be found helping creatures in need – trapped lady bugs, snails stuck on the sidewalk, cats in the rain, and hugging homeless dogs.
Some days the little girl would curl up on her bed, read a good book, stare at the clouds, or listen to her music and dream of other lives and lands. She had a talent for drawing and painting. When words would not work, she expressed herself in colors, art and poetry. She loved butterflies, and sparklers, and kites, and coco, and dancing, and swimming, and climbing trees….and twirling around and around for no particular reason.
The little girl was a good student when she wanted to be; she had a flair for organizing her work and attending to details that helped her and others shine. Her appearance was also very unique as her hair looked golden some days, red on some days, and still other days, it was a rich dark chocolate color! Her eyes had the unusual quality of appearing green, brown, blue and hazel…all at the same time! Often people did not know what to make of this little girl – she was both light and dark, happy and sad, graceful and clumsy, outgoing and shy.
In many ways, she was every little girl.
As the little girl grew, she was known for her kind heart, great sense of humor, outgoing personality, and quiet intelligence. Even though life wasn’t perfect [and some days could be pretty hard, lonely and scary], this little girl had a secret…a secret that only she knew about. Deep inside she knew she was different and special…she could just feel it! She knew this to be true because when she stopped and listened to her heart, the steady beat reminded her over and over again:
You are precious
You are special
You are unique
You are valuable
You are a princess!
This little girl held onto to her heart’s secret knowledge of her special inner princess. She feared that no one would really believe her if they found out, or worse yet, maybe they would even make fun of her. Truth be told, some days when bad things happened, it was even hard to believe it herself!
Especially the days when she felt like SHE was the bad thing. The days when she was hurt, abandoned, disappointed, wounded, shamed or pressured by someone she loved. And sometimes, the voice of her heart felt muffled when she told a lie, or when she was mean, manipulative, secretive, or when she gossiped, snapped at her mom, stole something, kicked, stomped, sulked, slammed…and was generally pretty miserable.
Sometimes it got so bad, that she would actually have a:
Sometimes her tantrums were loud and proud, sometimes sulky and…well…kind of obnoxious! As she got older, she learned to hide her tantrums on the inside where no one was the wiser. Where no one could guess what she was feeling – especially not the little girl. She would smile on the outside, but hidden away deep down inside, were numbed feelings that she had been told were bad. And the weirdest thing of all..she did not even know it! It was as if something was trying to silence her heart’s secret princess message.
The years continued to unfold and the little girl discovered both the joys and pains of life. While there were many adventures and lovely memories and moments to cherish, she also discovered that people sometimes leave you, hearts can be broken, that lies are told with smiles, that rain falls on sunny days, and that people and pets we love and cherish pass on to other places. At times the little girl felt lost, alone and frightened. Other times she felt angry, resentful and filled with hurt. And sometimes, well…she felt just plain hopeless.
Where she used to draw hearts and rainbows, where she used to dream of love, joy and adventure, where she used to dance naturally and organically with abandon, where she used to wish and pray….little by little this began to fade away and was replaced by other ways of coping in order to silence her wounded heart.
One night as the little girl slept, a dream monster revealed itself to her. This monster was responsible for stealing the hope and confidence of girls, and had been stalking this particular little girl for many, many years. The monsters name was:
S H O U L D
Monster Should reminded the little girl that his job was to creep around feeding his fiendish friends: Doubt, Dissatisfaction, Envy, and Apathy. He would drown out her beating heart’s message of hope with his loud ticking clock to remind her that she was slowly but steadily… running out of time.
Monster Should informed the little girl in no uncertain terms that he and his cruel friends were going to continue to set up home in her mind for as long as they darn well wanted to. And that the only way she could banish them was by listening to her true heart’s voice of hope.
As the little girl awoke with a start, and shook off the bad dream, Monster Should chuckled to himself, knowing full well that it was very hard for little girls to learn how to listen to their authentic hearts. The evil monster knew that he had a lot of support in the outside world that would happily assist him with his nasty cause.
And he was right. For a very long time, the little girl learned to should all over herself. The monsters ticking messages within her head said things like, “I should be prettier, I should have a better education, I should have more money, thinner thighs, a better job, a cuter hair cut, a nicer home, a fabulous car, a man to support me, a work out schedule, more discipline, more friends, more, more, more, I should, I should, I should….”
In the harder moments, sometimes the little girl ate too much in order to sooth herself. Other times she took a pill, smoked or drank. Sometimes she slept..and slept..and slept. Sometimes she watched TV, or stayed on the Internet for hours on end. Sometimes she clung to the shredded tatters of old relationships that no longer fit. Other times she shopped and dieted, and exercised herself silly! And many times, she worked her fingers to the bone to keep herself distracted from what really matters.
And…what really matters?
One day, many years later, the little girl found herself living in a land that was flanked by mountains of both flame and snow to the north, and a vast and mysterious sea to the south. It was filled with palm trees, hidden trails, sparkling streams, dessert canyons, and flowers of every kind. After some time had passed, a new season came to be known in the land, and it was proclaimed:
The Compassion Season
As this new season arrived, for the first time in a very long time, the little girl began to stand still in her life and listen to her heartbeat. Monster Should’s ticking thoughts grew fainter and fainter. And as she settled down into that familiar feeling of knowing that she had a special princess deep within, she began to trust her heart again. Beat by beat, the language and lessons came back to her. Her heart was telling her so many things that she had forgotten, and some things that she was hearing for the very first time!
She even found out that her secret princess name was Tout Le Monde!!
As the season of compassion matured, Monster Should and his vile buddies fled one by one for other habitation. And this beautiful, precious, sweet, creative, funny, intelligent, artistic little girl who was now a woman, began to express her authentic self, to honor her heart’s voice of hope, and to awaken to a life that was like a new present each day to unwrap. She discovered that some days the presents were just what she asked for, and other days, it was a gift she needed, but had not known.
Again and again, she realized that life did not have to be perfect, people did not need to be perfect, situations did not have to be perfect, and best of all she did not need to be perfect either…Hurray! And even in the imperfect moments, with imperfect people and her imperfect self, she could still be grateful and she could still create new possibilities each and every day of her life. She even created a princess tiara just for herself; she decorated it with all the colors and designs she loved, and on the inside she wrote her secret princess name Tout Le Monde so she would always remember she was a gift and a blessing, and that she had value and meaning in this world. In fact, her secret princess name meant “all the world.”
As we say farewell to Tout Le Monde, we leave her with our good and healing thoughts, our starlit wishes, and sweet sister prayers as she continues to discover all of the wonderful gifts that are just waiting for her.
And now, we bring the story to ourselves, to our own life and journey and precious inner princess. We now know that the road ahead will be filled with both harsh stones and refreshing streams. Yet we can breath easy on the more difficult parts of the path, as we listen to our own authentic heartbeat reminding us that:
This story is my story.
I am that lovely little girl.
I have a life that is worth living.
I have talents that are uniquely my own.
I am a valued child.
I am a woman of strength.
I am an over comer.
I am a gift.
I am an authentic being.
I am worth loving.